- Theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi, and philosopher Mark Walker say we are obsessed with achieving ever greater intelligence
- But they warn it could lead to anti-social behaviour and psychosis
- Say that if people become extremely clever but their moral intelligence is not boosted as well, they could use their powers for evil
By Emma Innes
PUBLISHED: 02:07 EST, 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 04:10 EST, 12 July 2013
Sci-fi has long been fascinated by the idea of creating a race of people with superhuman intelligence, but two experts have now argued that this is far from a good idea.
Theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi, and philosopher Mark Walker, have both spent more time contemplating the issue than most.
In an interview with io9, the pair explained the problems. They believe that excessive amounts of intelligence could have negative consequences for the person, causing maladaptation, anti-social behaviour, and even psychosis.
Their findings come at a time when people are obsessed with intelligence, IQ, and the pursuit of endless knowledge.
They also believe that the concept is difficult as intelligence is hard to define and factors such as morals and empathy could be overlooked.
Mr Walker explained to io9: ‘Transhumanists, when they say that intelligence ought to be enhanced, almost never mean some kind of social intelligence.
‘They rarely talk about other forms of intelligence, like enhanced empathy, or understanding what it means to promote another person’s well-being.’
He added: ‘Just because you have intelligence in the IQ sense doesn’t necessarily mean you have a universal instrument to help you get everything else you want in your life.’
Mr Changizi explained that the issue is how we define intelligence – and therefore, what we mean when we say that we would like to create people with superhuman intelligence.
He believes that people tend to think of intelligence as something that the human brain is not particularly good at – for example, being able to play chess, or solve logic problems.
He went on to explain that things people are naturally good at, such as things that come instinctively, we do not see as part of our intelligence.
He told io9 that people are not aware of their brain doing these things, so do not tend to view them as connected to intelligence.
Mr Walker agrees that people tend to have too simplistic a view of intelligence. He says that people who try to turn intelligence into a narrow category are oversimplifying it.
For example, he notes that there are people who are really good at solving mathematical problems but who are almost incapable of stringing a sentence together.
He worries that if people were give superhuman intelligence, it would be almost impossible to enhance all of the areas that could constitute intelligence.
He argues that because everyone values different areas of intelligence, if everyone boosted the area of intelligence that they consider to be important, it would result in worse outcomes.
For example, Mr Walker worries that people might end up amazingly good at something like maths, but totally lacking in emotional or moral intelligence.
This, he believes, could result in people using their talents for evil.
As a result, he thinks the only way that it could work would be to boost intelligence at the same rate as self-reflection and modesty.
Mr Walker is also concerned that because the human brain is not designed to be super intelligent, it might respond to boosting by becoming maladjusted or even psychotic.
The experts believe that there could, however, be solutions.
Mr Changizi believes that the way to make people brilliant is to harness the brain’s natural instincts.
He believes that in the future it will be more important to people to be able to enhance these factors to allow us, for example, to navigate new places, than to enhance the sort of intelligence that related to things like maths.
In contrast, Mr Walker believes that the most valuable thing would be to boost people’s ability to be happy.
He thinks that people who are happy are more successful in a wide range of areas, such as in their relationships, their work and their social lives.
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